Nobody wants to find themselves in a disaster, but if you found yourself in such a situation, you would want Cade Courtley — or at least his advice — to be right there with you. A Navy SEAL, Courtley will teach viewers how to survive a nuclear attack, an avalanche, a home invasion, a hurricane, an earthquake and other such catastrophes in Spike’s 10-episode series Surviving Disaster, which he describes as “a hybrid of drama, documentary and a little bit of reality.”
He puts everyday people through simulated disasters, much like the ones he experienced in military training. “They would put us through the very worst so that when we were out there in actual situations, we were familiar with it and it was easier to deal with. And that, in a large part, is what we’re doing on this show.”
Viewers might recognize Courtley from his participation in the USA Network series Combat Missions a few years ago. He has done some other film and TV work as well, including a bit part in the Vin Diesel film The Pacifier, on which Courtley served as a technical advisor. Courtley thought that chapter of his life was over before an old friend reached out to him.
“I was over in Iraq [working in the private sector for a government agency] when I got a random e-mail from one of the execs at Spike that I had worked with maybe eight years prior on Combat Missions,” Courtley says. “He was a PA on that. Fast-forward seven or eight years, I get a random e-mail. He’s saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this show here. We’re looking for somebody. We think you’d be perfect.’ I wrote back, ‘Hey, I’m not really doing the Hollywood thing anymore. I’m kind of busy right now in Iraq.'”
A month later, Courtley was shooting the pilot for Surviving Disaster. On the show, he shares the specifics of how to get through various life-threatening scenarios. The most crucial piece of advice he offers though, applies to all of them — simply remain calm regardless of what is going on around you.
“I think the very first thing I would tell people, regardless of what disaster they’re in, is not to panic,” he says. “Just take a second and try to calm down, and if you can keep the brain working for you, you can get yourself out of almost anything.”
Of course, all the disasters on the show are simulated. No real bullets are flying and no one gets hurt. The result is TV that is not only potentially life-saving, but fun, too — not just for viewers, but also for Courtley, who is slated to begin filming a new movie with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson this month. We hope he only bought a one-way ticket from Iraq.
“It’s kind of funny where life leads you. My experience in Hollywood so far has been great — and it’s kind of nice not getting really shot at,” he jokes. “It’s nice being in L.A., 80 degrees, and not Baghdad, 115 degrees.”
Surviving Disaster premieres Sept. 1 on Spike.